First Time's the Charm
In a world growing smaller by the day, a seasoned circumnavigator finds that with the right mindset, the exotic is everywhere.
Classic circumnavigators as we knew them—are they, or are they not, becoming a rare, dying breed? By classic, I mean leaving home, continuously sailing the entire trade-wind circuit, and arriving back at the same spot within a set time. The temptations and fulfillments of a circumnavigation under sail used to sit firmly within this construct. Typically, it would take at least three years. By the end, one was now somebody: a salty sea dog with that faraway look in one’s eye.
No doubt: Once a globalizer, now the circumnavigator is overtaken by globalization. Via the Internet, one can see distances dissolve; via the media, novelty crumbles. The exotic becomes common. The most attractive areas are packed with charter boats. Hardly a coast is lonely, free, or affordable. In short, what the long-distance sailor dreamed of no longer matches reality. Circumnavigating has lost its charms, some would say.
But can this be true, that a circumnavigation following the trade-wind Milk Run is passé? That the measured pace it takes has no allure? Has the world today grown so familiar? Is the time it takes to circle it now much too long?
|It's such ice-strewn high-latitude cruising grounds as the Antarctic Peninsula that tug at the heartstrings of wanderers Kicki and Theis.|
Numbers tell us that only a fifth of the members of the German cruising association Trans-Ocean are on a round-the-world voyage. Only 16 percent of those who join the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers want to continue westward from the Caribbean. Cruising, as a reflection of affluent society, today favors immediacy, consumption, and fun; this, in turn, favors chartering or racing or perhaps a year in the Med, a circuit to the Caribbean, or bluewater voyages done in short hops.
But to conclude from this that there are fewer boats roaming the planet would be a mistake. It’s just that among the increasing number of ocean cruisers, fewer are circumnavigating in the classic manner.
Very early in life, I wanted my own boat to sail around the world. But not quickly, not with others, not as a party trip, not on a race, not to set a record. Just to experience the planet, in all its variety. As a 13-year-old, I was infected by the circumnavigation dream; as a 19-year-old, by wooden boats. At 24, I owned Wanderer III, and since then I’ve hardly had a penny.